Snowmobile rental charges in Frisco spark lawsuit
FRISCO, Colorado A Florida tourist is refusing to pay some $8,000 in damages to a snowmobile he rented recently from Colorado Backcountry Rentals in Frisco, Colorado, claiming that he was pressured into signing off on the charges.Juan Sanchez of Hollywood, Fla., and his cousin Luis Cuevas of Aurora claim that after damaging a rented Yamaha Phazer snowmobile on Dec. 15, the owner of Colorado Backcountry Rentals, Scott Wilson, forced them to agree with the payments saying he was the sheriff.Wilson, a volunteer chaplain with the Summit County Sheriffs Office, vehemently denies the allegation, claiming that the men are trying to find ways to get out of the payment, even though they signed multiple liability waivers that outlined the potential costs should a snowmobile get damaged.Before I take out any clients, I explain the costs associated with any damages that happen out in the backcountry, Wilson said. If you break it, you buy it. And everyone has to sign and initial that they understand.The lingering dispute, however, has resulted in Wilson being placed on suspension from the sheriffs department while the district attorney investigates and prompted him to sue his customers over the outstanding bill.
Sanchez and Cuevas rented two snowmobiles for an unguided tour of the Vail Pass recreation area.After veering off the trail, Sanchez flipped his snowmobile in deep powder, and when he righted the machine, he found that a yellow indicator light was illuminated.I shut off the machine and waited for (an employee from Backcountry Rentals) to come over, Sanchez said. Scott took a look at the engine and said there was oil in the breather and that he would have to tow it back.Wilson hitched the damaged snowmobile to his own sled and towed it back to the entrance of the recreation center to meet up with the other clients and write a damage report.There was oil everywhere when I opened the hood, and I knew right away (the snowmobile) was done, Wilson said, adding that the machine was barely a year old. Then it was just standard operating procedure. I asked them both to come in my truck so I could get their licenses to do the paperwork.Prior to renting any machines, clients are required to sign off on a waiver that states they will be charged for losses of revenue each day a snowmobile is unable to be used.Clients that take out snowmobile also are responsible to pay a rescue fee should they need help and a late fee if they dont arrive back on time.Prior to departing on their trip, Sanchez and Cuevas signed off on the agreement, initialing the form six separate times before signing at the bottom.No, I didnt fully read the liability form, Sanchez said. I probably looked at it, but I didnt read it word for word.Once back in his truck, Wilson started categorizing the charges, assuming that the snowmobile would be out of commission for at least three days.
Sanchez and Cuevas both claim that prior to receiving the damage report, they got a verbal warning from Wilson.He put his hand over the paper and said: Before I show you this, dont go crazy. There are a lot of charges on here. Also I am a sheriff, and I do have a weapon, and then he looked at the door where he had a gun, Sanchez said.Him saying that he had a gun was scary, Cuevas said. It was threatening.In his duties as a chaplain, Wilson carries a badge that he pins on the visor of his truck, and he lawfully owns a .38 caliber gun that he keeps tucked in the side door.I never once said I was the sheriff, Wilson said. Its frustrating, because the conversation was a friendly one until they got upset about the charges. It doesnt behoove me to threaten anyone, and I just dont understand where this is all coming from.Although Wilson agreed to waive the late fee and the 25 percent service charge, he informed Sanchez and Cuevas that they could be looking at the cost of a new snowmobile, and Cuevas gave Wilson his credit card to keep on file for any future charges.I called Cuevas the next to day to tell him that the damages were worse than I thought and that it would probably equal the cost of a new snowmobile, Wilson said. In the course of our conversation, I told him what the amount would be, and he went crazy, saying: How many customers do you do this to? and I have a gun, too, so maybe we can handle it that way.That same day, Sanchez contacted the Frisco Chamber of Commerce to file a complaint and, once a gun was mentioned in the story, the case was handed over to law enforcement.If I had done these things that they are claiming, then why didnt they go to the police right away? Wilson said. These are two guys that dont want to pay what they owe.The case has since been turned over the district attorneys office, which will investigate the allegations against Wilson before he is allowed to return to his duties as chaplain. Wilson also is perhaps best known in the county for operating the Big Red Bus, a mobile fun center for kids.We always try to do these investigations as fast as possible, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said. We want to be as thorough as possible because investigations like this have an effect on peoples lives.The total charge including damages, lost rental days and the rescue fees totaled $8,358.64, and the office of Wilsons attorney, Dunn, Keyes, Gelman & Pummell, sent out a request for payment after Cuevas canceled the credit card he provided for payment.Because the cost of a new snowmobile would cost $7,250, Wilson agreed to split the difference and settle at $7,600.Its so hard to know they have hung me with these costs and are now trying to put leverage on me so they wont have to pay, Wilson said. These guys are from out of town and have nothing to lose. I have everything to lose, and false reporting like this hurts my business.In response to the non-payment of funds, Wilsons attorney filed suit against the two men on Jan. 6, citing breach of contract.I really feel that we could have worked something out if they had just talked to me about it, Wilson said.Sanchez, however, said he intends to keep fighting as a matter of principle.It doesnt matter if it costs more to go to court, Sanchez said. If he wants to go to court, then that is fine. There are plenty of lawyers out there, and I wont be strong-armed by someone who says theyre the sheriff and then tries to deny saying firstname.lastname@example.org
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